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HEALTH

Mask hysteria: Germany denies export ban despite blocking Swiss-bound medical supplies

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday denied putting in place an export ban on medical supplies, despite a Swiss-bound truck being stopped by customs officials. The Swiss government has however said it is prepared and has a large stock of protective equipment.

Mask hysteria: Germany denies export ban despite blocking Swiss-bound medical supplies
Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

As reported by The Local Switzerland on Monday, March 9th, a truck containing approximately 240,000 protective masks was stopped by German customs before it could cross the border into Switzerland. 

There have been widespread media reports that Germany, along with other European countries such as France, have put in place restrictions on the export of medical supplies.

READ ALSO: Germany bans exports of gloves and masks over coronavirus

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has however denied this, saying “there is no export ban. We just want to make sure the medical materials are in the right hands”. 

On Wednesday, another shipment – this time of surgical gloves which had been produced in China but were destined for Switzerland – was stopped in Germany. 

As reported in the Tages Anzeiger, the Swiss Economics Department said it was one of many shipments that had been detained in Germany. Another shipment was detained on Wednesday, this time from Italy. 

The situation is particularly severe for Switzerland as the country, unlike neighbours France and Germany, produces very little protective gear. 

Despite the dispute, the Swiss government has indicated that it has a significant stockpile of medical equipment – including more than one mask for every Swiss resident. 

Avoiding 'mask hysteria'

Health officials have frequently told the general public that healthy people should not wear masks and to refrain from purchasing them as they make it more difficult for sick people and medical professionals to access them. 

According to the WHO, around 80 percent of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment.

Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Some 3.4 percent of cases are fatal, according to the latest WHO figures. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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